The American education system is a “C” student in an increasingly competitive world. How can we break from the pack and restore the American dream?

Here we explore six essential questions at the heart of education. Don’t just read this brief; engage with it, providing feedback along the way. Your voice will shape the conversation, define the issues, and help the community drive meaningful change across our nation.

Where do we stand?

A look at education across the globe

This is a very complex issue, but the general consensus is that we’re in the “middle of the pack” globally in primary and secondary education. For example, the World Economic Forum ranks us 38th in the quality of primary education. Meanwhile the benchmark Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) places us below average in mathematics (26th) and about average in science (21st) and reading (17th). The bottom line – being a “C” student in a competitive world is not a place we can afford to be.

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Where are we headed?

A glimpse at our future

Our relative performance in math, science and reading hasn’t moved much over the years, but the problem is that while we’ve been treading water many nations we compete with are pulling ahead. For example, Shanghai China is now #1 in math with Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea right behind them. The fact is that holding our ground isn’t good enough – we need to benchmark ourselves against the best not the rest.

It’s not as if sincere efforts at reform aren’t underway in this country – it’s just that localized successes haven’t been enough to move the needle nationally. Reality check – if we don’t make significant process in the next decade, we’re going to fall further and further behind those nations committed to seizing the future.

Listen to Sir Michael Barber's thoughts on a full education

What's at stake?

Schools, skills, and the American Dream

It’s universally recognized that education is the very cornerstone of prosperity. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates we’ll forgo $1.3 trillion in growth (5% GDP) by 2030 unless substantial progress is made in K-12 education. However, it goes much deeper than money. The American Dream itself is at risk if we don’t get this right. Year after year we’re letting millions of children go out into the world without the skills they need to live productive and meaningful lives. At the same time, even our best students are falling behind in the capabilities that will characterize future economic leadership.

What's holding up progress?

We talk a good game about children being our greatest priority and leaving none of them behind, but too often we’re just not walking the walk. Right now all the other stakeholders in the education debate have focused and financed voices in Washington – from teachers unions to educational software lobbyists. What’s missing is large scale citizen advocacy driven by a single and unwavering goal – increased student performance. Until everyone in government knows that mainstream citizens are keeping score on this issue our children’s welfare won’t get the attention and focus it deserves. Real progress here won’t involve silver bullet solutions and will take years to unfold. In the current political envirionment, issues that are hard, don’t lend themselves to sound bites, and are beyond quick fixes rarely get traction. The only way to change this dynamic is for enough citizens to come together, work together and stand shoulder to shoulder to drive progress.

Follow the link images below for a variety of perspectives on Education.

What are the core
issues & challenges?

A multifaceted approach to reform

  • Classroom Instruction Quality
  • Low Performing Schools
  • Technological Enhancements
  • Standards and Metrics
  • A Reluctance to be Bold
  • We have some of the best teachers in the world, but too many classrooms in this country just aren’t making the grade. Learn more
  • About 2000 high schools generate more than 50% of the nation’s dropouts—progress on K-12 requires addressing these “dropout factories”.
  • Technology isn’t a silver bullet, but it must play a major role in improving K-12 performance. Right now many schools lack even basic technical infrastructure.
  • Progress on education requires clear success criteria that can be applied to students, teachers and schools. It’s less about numbers than accountability and determining what really has impact in the classroom.
  • To get back to the top in education we must be willing to make big changes. Everything needs to be on the table—no sacred cows

How can you help move
the nation forward?

A call to every American

Without your help and the support of citizens like you we’ll never move far enough or fast enough on education. What can you do today to help?

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